There is nowhere to hide from Giddy Up and Go time. Not even the Tikal jungle or the noises of the howler monkeys could stop it from calling around. So, there was nothing for it but to pack up and leave the really spectacular Mayan ruins and wild Jungle of Tikal Guatemala, destination Belize.
Belize is a small country, just 290 km long and 110 km wide, situated in between Mexico in the north, Guatemala on the south west and the Caribbean Sea on the east. It was formerly called British Honduras and was a British colony, achieving independence in 1981. It is a member of the British commonwealth and has Queen Elizabeth the second as the head of state. Strangely enough its currency is the Belizean dollar and not Belizean pounds. The main languages are English and Spanish. It’s main source of income is tourism. It is ideally situated part in the jungles of the mountains and part in the Caribbean Sea and the Barrier Reef. Belize attracts a lot of divers and deep-sea fishers from all over the world. Another thing that it’s famous for albeit lesser known is its music, Punta Music. Punta is a dance originating in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala in the late 18th century, the music has distinctive African beats.
Here is a YouTube link:
I crossed into Belize from Guatemala at a border crossing called Melchor de Mencos. The border crossing was different in the sense that the “Aduana” was suddenly Customs and Excise. Everyone spoke English which was a nice change. But it still had that Central America bureaucracy and slowness, it took a while. Then I was finally through and could ride the bike across the border.
My first destination was a stop for the night in a town called Belmopan. Then it was on to Orange Walk, a town in Northern Belize. From there I wanted to go to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Lamanai. This is reached either by a bumpy dirt road or by the river. I choose the river. This was a super run, the Captain stopped at loads of places to show us different nature and animals, also a crocodile… well a baby one. Life along this river is really interesting.
On the way we passed a settlement inhabited by Plautdietsch and German speaking Mennonites. They are a small group that live in pretty much isolation. This settlement was called Shipyard and they built boats in the traditional way, using no power tools whatsoever. Their clothes are also really traditional. Men, mostly, have all got long beards and wear denim overalls, whilst the women wear bright colored long dresses and bonnets. They are very similar to the Amish settlements.
Then on to the ancient city of Lamanai or Lama’anayin as it is known in Yucatan Mayan, which means submerged crocodile. It was a city of great significance and one of the longest inhabited Mayan cities, spanning over 3 millennia. It was inhabited from the 1500 BC up until the early 19th century. Here we also had lunch. This is a nice tranquil place. Pretty much isolated, a nice place to spend a lazy afternoon.
Then it was time to giddy up a go. I wanted to visit a wildlife sanctuary called Crooked Tree, situated on an island in the like named lagoon. Crooked Tree village is regarded as the oldest European inland settlement in Belize, dating from the logging period. It was settled in 1750. This is an important waterfowl sanctuary. I found a camping spot on the lagoon, a spot that I shared with an Aussie biker called Jimmy. Jimmy was riding a Mexican registered Italjet 125. Spent a pleasant couple of nights chatting under the stars with him. There is also an important Mayan archaeological site, Chau Hiix, featuring a large pyramid. This site can only be reached by boat or canoe. Crooked Tree is also famous for locally grown and processed cashews. The Cashew Festival in May celebrates the many products of the cashew: stewed cashews, wines, jams, syrup, cookies, cake, fudge and of course cashew nuts. Quiet a busy little sleepy village.
Got a really nice sunrise on the lagoon and then it was off to Bermuda Landing. I stayed the night in a Baboon Sanctuary. This is a local initiative set up to provide a sanctuary for baboons and howler monkeys. Local farmers are donating a section of their land to the project.
Then it was beach time. Headed to the coast to a town called Dangriga. I was following signs and when I saw one saying coastal highway. I took it, thinking that it was gonna be a super nice coast road…. Forget it! It was off road with just about everything from gravel, mud, washboard to deep sand for about 38 miles (60km). It was really hot and it took me the best part of the morning to do it. Here is avideo made by some bikers of this road:
Rented a little cabin on the beach and spent a nice couple of days chilling, swimming and just lazing on the beach.
Then on to a town called Hopkins. First had to pass through a police road check. They wanted to see my mandatory insurance which was in order. Hopkins is a small coastal village, created in 1942 to replace the village of Newtown, which was devastated by a hurricane further up the coast. Hopkins is considered to be the cultural center of the Garifuna population in Belize. The town hosts its own national holiday, Hopkins Day, but also welcomes people for their celebration of Garifuna Independence Day, November 19, as well. They do this with drum ceremonies that can last till early hours in the morning.
I first wanted to camp but the beach was too sandy, I couldn’t get the bike down it. I went then to a hostel called the Funky Dodo Backpackers where I met Eoin, an Irish guy traveling with Amy his girlfriend. They told me about a place further down the beach called Kismet. This was a brilliant find, really a nice place. It was run by a crazy American girl. She loved to party and had cabins for rent on the beach. She also welcomed people with tents to camp. Once again it was chill time on the beach. Besides Eoin and Amy, a German girl called Monika also showed up to camp. We all had a really good time.
Then it was decision time for me…. Easter was coming and Belize was not turning out to be what I expected. I was kinda expecting to have roast spuds (potatoes) Yorkshire pudding, scones, jam clotted cream and a decent cup of tea…… Forget it, not even fish and chips! It also missed that all important Central American Caribbean vibe that I loved. I decided to leave and head back to Guatemala, where I wanted to spend Easter in a town called Antigua.
The run to the border was really nice. Took a road called the Hummingbird Highway. Spent the night in a town called San Ignacio. This, despite being a border town, turned out to be a super vibrant little place, had a pleasant night here. Then it was on to the border, where once again everything happened slow. Had to pay a 45 BLD exit tax to the Belizean officials for the privilege of leaving. Guatemala customs turned out to be easy. I had suspended my TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for Guatemala and after a quick inspection of the bike and paperwork I was once again in Guatemala
There is a full photo album of Belize on my travelblog page, Ride Live Explore on Facebook. This is an open page, so you do not have to be a member to view it. So, make a nice wee cup of tea and pop on over and enjoy the sights of Belize.
Thank you for reading the blogs, following and liking on Facebook, thank you for sharing the journey with me.
Hasta la Vista amigos